Let’s Make 2020 the Year of No Long Term Contracts

Here at Mockingbird, we have made our disdain for long-term contracts well-known. We have seen too many law firms fall victim to the predatory practices of FindLaw and other such agencies. Too many of our clients have come to us after being stripped down by contracts designed to empty their wallets. It’s because of this that we want to warn you of the dangers of signing onto a long term contract and how to avoid it.

 

The Dangers

Domain Ownership

Ownership of the website often sits in the fine print of these contracts, and it rarely benefits the law firm. This is one of the ways agencies trap their clients; they can’t leave without losing their website. 

 

Content Ownership

Right alongside domain ownership is content ownership; the agency owns all the content on the website. This means that even if the client manages to leave, they can’t keep anything from the website they might have been adding to for years.

 

Upselling Poor Service

When you’re trapped in a contract the agency has little motivation to provide you with the service you deserve. When you find them failing to deliver, they might even ask you to pay more for certain features that should be included or are completely irrelevant. Suddenly the contract is more expensive and the service is just as bad.

 

Our Experiences

We’ve been in the business for a while, and we’ve had more than a couple of firms come to us desperate and without a website:

Helping these firms get back on their feet has made us painfully aware of how damaging long term contracts can be. That’s why we’ve built a guide for escaping FindLaw

 

What to Look for When Signing a Contract

As a lawyer, you’re probably used to the implications of the fine print. The fine print for your marketing agency shouldn’t be given any less attention than what’s in your clients’ cases. Here are a few of the things you should keep an eye out for and flag:

  • Domain ownership
  • Content ownership
  • Termination penalties
  • End dates

If you see yourself about to sign a contract that will hold you for years, stop and think: is there a better way?

 

There is. Don’t make bad decisions in 2020 that will follow you for the next decade. Don’t sign the contract.

Impacts of Google’s January Update on the Legal Industry

Google released a new core update in mid-January, most of which has been rolled out at this point. As with all updates, Google reassured webmasters that no specific sites or industries were targeted. That being said, some industries saw greater impacts than others. And since we’re a legal marketing agency, we like to focus on the impacts on the legal industry. 

 

Based on research from SEMrush.com, the legal and government industries have seen a fair amount of volatility over the past week. The peak days of change were January 14-16, and things appear to be back to normal now.

 

But just because things are no longer changing doesn’t mean there wasn’t an impact. SEMrush works to track SERPs (search engine results pages) in a number of categories, from featured snippets to reviews. 

 

By looking at a selection of these SERPs (not all of them are relevant to the legal industry, such as shopping results) we can get an idea of how legal websites might have been affected.

 

HTTPS Usage

From semrush.com

 

HTTPS usage saw a drop when the update was rolled out and has been steadily declining since. Fortunately, it looks like it might be bouncing back. 

 

Local Results

From semrush.com

 

Local results, or “Local pack” as it’s called on SEMrush, consists of location-based results that appear on the map and the first three results (see below).  After an initial dip, local SERPs seem to have bounced back to where they were before the update.

Reviews

From semrush.com

 

This metric refers to the number of organic results that appear with a star rating under the URL. As with the local results, there was an initial dip immediately following the update. Fortunately, this result is also creeping back up to where it was.

 

Top Ads

From semrush.com

 

Top ads refer to the ads that appear at the top of the page of search results. These have been seeing some serious fluctuations over the past 30 days, but seem to have been on a steady increase since before the update.

 

What Does This Mean

So what do these metrics really mean for you and your business? Mostly it means that there might be a bit of instability in your traffic for a little while after this update. Unless your website is seeing a long-lasting and extreme drop in traffic, it’s nothing to worry about.

Should You be Advertising on DuckDuckGo?

Neglecting all search engines that aren’t Google might not be your downfall, but it definitely won’t help you. It’s also possible to run whole advertising campaigns just on Google and Bing’s main sites. Here’s the thing: you shouldn’t.

 

The Underdog Engines

Google owns a majority of the global search engine market. This makes it a highly competitive market for advertisers, since that’s where a lot of the consumers are. This is why Microsoft Ads (or Bing Ads, depending on who you’re talking to) are a good alternative. The competition is lower, the prices are cheaper, and return on investment is often comparable if not higher than with Google Ads. 

 

Where DuckDuckGo Fits In

Going further down the funnel from Bing is DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo doesn’t own half a percent of the global search engine market, but it is growing. 

 

The business model of the platform rests on ensuring user privacy. Unlike Google and Bing, DuckDuckGo advertises based solely on keywords, not user history. This makes it particularly appealing to users who are concerned about their personal safety and privacy.

 

Who Could Benefit from Advertising on DuckDuckGo

Due to the secure nature of the search engine, DuckDuckGo should be particularly appealing to businesses dealing with sensitive matters. As a law firm, it’s likely that you are dealing with sensitive matters.

 

A quick glance at a few of our clients has shown some pretty significant numbers of pageviews over the past six weeks from DuckDuckGo users. As in, over 100 users for some firms. This may not be a lot percentage-wise (less than 1% of total traffic),  but some of them have been leading to conversions. For a platform that isn’t getting much focus, it has a lot of potential.

How to Advertise on DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is an affiliate with Microsoft, meaning advertising is distributed through the Bing Ads interface and network. This means that you can set up your Bing Ads to be distributed on DuckDuckGo searches. 

 

You can make sure DuckDuckGo is included in your Bings Ads by going to Settings → Ad Distribution → Network → select All Search Networks.

If you would like help managing your law firm’s digital advertising, contact Mockingbird today.

How Google’s Ever-Changing Search Experience will Impact the Legal Industry

Google is constantly updating, improving features, removing bugs, and changing user experiences. This is quite noticeable for those of us in marketing, who make it our job to keep our finger on the pulse of changes in the search engine world. 

 

How Ads are Changing for Services

Google provides opportunities to advertise just about anything under a variety of categories from restaurants to stores to legal services. You have probably noticed this on Google Maps and might have noticed this when you search for flights. Different categories are being provided with different user experiences. 

 

For legal services, the ads have remained relatively unchanged upfront. Plug-in options have increased, targeting options have changed, and contact options have improved, but these might not be as immediately visible to consumers. This is how legal ads currently look:

 

 

 

This isn’t anything we haven’t seen before; nothing to write home about. However, a recent Search Engine Land article showed how different services’  advertisements differ:

 

 

One of the potential reasons for Google’s delay on local service ad upgrades could be the category’s susceptibility to spam. It’s not unheard of for multiple fake businesses to appear in searches, oftentimes almost indistinguishable from legitimate businesses. 

 

The future of local ads could see more protections going up to fight spam, more carouselling ads, and more individual add-ons based on the business type. It’s hard to know what’s coming for legal advertising, but we know we’ll be ready.

Is Your Agency Selling You More Than You Need?

Judging Your Marketing Plan by Your Firm

Law firm marketing is an industry full of swindlers. Bad marketers are always trying to sell you more than you need, won’t tell you how their add-ons are helping you, and don’t produce the results they promise.  Scams are all over, which is why you need to be able to recognize when you’re overpaying or are paying for the wrong things. 

 

But what are the things you should be paying for? This depends on your practice, your firm, and your goals. Any marketer who says they have a one-size-fits-all, guaranteed to work plan is lying. No marketer can guarantee digital marketing success unless they’re physically (and illegally) paying off someone at Google, and every plan should be customizable. Every firm is different.

 

What Does My Practice Need?

Every practice has its strengths and weaknesses. Personal injury firms tend to need large amounts of advertising due to the highly competitive market and can afford it because of their high case values. Immigration lawyers, on the other hand, tend to have high caseloads with lower case values, meaning they need specific and cost-effective advertising. If an immigration lawyer is being sold an expensive new website and thousands of dollars in monthly ad-spend they are likely being ripped off. 

 

Before speaking with a digital marketing firm you need to make sure you know your business. What is your budget and what are your goals? A good firm should be able to work with your needs. If they are pressuring you to spend more than you are comfortable with without providing data to support their suggestions, run. 

 

But what does your firm actually need? This depends on the infrastructure you already have built up. If you have a functional, scalable, beautiful website ready to go, you shouldn’t have to purchase a new one. When you already have Local SEO services set up you might not need to purchase more. If you are just starting out, you might need to invest a bit more. The best way to avoid being scammed is by doing research into what’s typically needed for a firm of your size and practice.

 

Ask Questions

The best indicator of a scam is a lack of transparency. If the firm you are talking to refuses to answer your questions directly you might want to raise a red flag. Marketers are good at making their product sound appealing, and rhetoric can be powerful and deceiving. Make sure your questions get answered and keep an eye out for non-answers. If you realize they didn’t actually tell you anything, press them harder. Make sure you know exactly what you should be getting and why you’re paying for it.

 

Talk to a Firm You Can Trust

If you’re curious about a trustworthy firm, call Mockingbird! We’re proud of our transparency, work ethic, and relationships with our clients and would love to talk with you about your firm.

The 3 Best Resources for Beginner Website Owners

Running a website for a business is complicated and sometimes frustrating, and when you add advertising on top of general up-keep it gets even more complicated. When an issue arises, you might not even notice until you check back through your ad results. There might be a sudden, unexplained drop in conversions or interactions, and you’ll be left wondering if the problem is with your website or the ad platform.

 

Lucky for you, there are plenty of good resources to help you figure out if the problem is on you or Google:

 

1. Google Webmaster Central Blog

From the horse’s mouth itself, Google’s webmaster blog is one of the best places to hear about news and updates that could impact your website. You’ll learn about new features available through Google Analytics and Search Console and how to access them.

 

2. Search Engine Journal

SEJ publishes multiple blog posts every day from various experts in the field of digital marketing. Even if you aren’t a digital marketer, many of the posts are useful in providing tips and tricks of the trade. If you think an update is screwing with your data, just glance at SEJ. If there was an update, they’ll be the first to know.

 

3. Google Webmasters Help Community

Any question you have has probably been asked before, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask it again. The Help community is made up of seasoned webmasters, experts, and Google employees. You can learn from other people’s misunderstandings and get answers for yourself.

 

Of course, there are hundreds of other resources you can use. Knowledge and helpful guides saturate the internet. Go out and learn! Find your own path! Running a business is hard, but it’s always an opportunity for personal growth.

If running a website and a law firm is more of a time commitment than you can make, we get it. Leave the website to us. Mockingbird runs websites and advertising for law firms and knows how to keep up with the constant changes. Contact us to learn more.

How Remarketing Benefits Law Firms

You might have heard the term “remarketing” before, it’s pretty common in the digital marketing world. Just in case you weren’t fully sure what it entails, here’s a quick backgrounder on the basics of remarketing.

 

What Even is Remarketing?

Well, it’s marketing, again. You market to audiences that have already interacted with your ads. Since consumers often take multiple visits to a website before converting, it makes sense that they probably didn’t become a client the first time they clicked on your ad. Does this mean you paid for a click that didn’t end up having a conversion? Yes. Does that mean it was a wasted click? No.

 

The good thing about interactions, even if they don’t result in conversions, is that they show you who is interested in your firm. By targeting people who interacted with your ad, you are cutting out a large portion of the uninterested population, and saving money in the process. Remarketing campaigns often have higher return on ad spend (ROAS) and lower cost per click (CPC). 

 

So, in summary, remarketing is marketing to people who you know are interested but might need a reminder in order to become a client.

 

Where Does Remarketing Work Best for Lawyers?

Remarketing is an option on most ad platforms, from Google to Facebook to Microsoft. Each platform has its own unique abilities and allowances regarding how many times you can show an ad to one person in a day. Facebook is at the higher end of that spectrum, Google is on the lower end. 

 

As far as law firms go, the platform does matter. The impact of a Facebook ad and Google or Bing Search ad are very different and serve different purposes. Where Facebook may be able to relentlessly promote your brand through rigorous remarketing, Search will catch people when they are actively looking for a lawyer.  It’s all a balancing game. Luckily, we’re really good at balancing.

 

How to Take Advantage of Remarketing

Your law firm can start remarketing as soon as you have data from marketing. You will have to figure out which of your audiences are best to target, and then narrow it down from there. 

If you feel like your law firm could benefit from remarketing, and think that you might need some help in running your ad campaigns, contact Mockingbird.

Google Ads Conversion Rate Benchmarking

Mockingbird manages millions of dollars in lawyer advertising across hundreds of law firms and while overall performance varies, firm to firm, I thought it might be useful to share our conversion rate data so my readers could benchmark their own performance. First – understand that conversion rate here does NOT mean converting into clients, but instead the percentage of people who contact the firm by phone, form fill, chat or even text message after clicking on the advertisement. One of the patterns we are aware of is that conversion rates vary greatly by Practice Area, so I’ve broken different practice areas out below. I’m hoping the numbers below are helpful in evaluating the performance of your own advertising…and if you agency obfuscates or doesn’t report on these numbers, I’d ask myself what they are hiding (read below the bullets for more…)

Also note that our campaigns’ strategy and tactics are driven primarily by business metrics instead of traditional PPC marketing metrics (such as impressions or click through rates), these benchmark numbers are likely to be very different from PPC campaigns that focus on optimizing more typical metrics like impressions, CTR, or position.

    • Personal Injury:  10.2%
    • Criminal Defense:  10.8%
    • Social Security Disability:  18.9%
    • Bankruptcy:  8.8%
    • Family:  20.2%
    • Immigration:  32.3%
    • Business:  1.6%
    • Estate Planning:  12.4%
    • Tax:  4.2%
    • Employment:  17.1%
    • Medical Malpractice:  31.0%

Tricks Agencies Use to Lie About Conversion Performance

Trick 1: Conflating Branded Results

Note that in our analysis above, we only did the analysis on non-branded search queries – i.e. “car accident lawyer” and not branded queries – i.e. “Smith and Jones Law Firm.” The reason for this is simple, branded queries already have high intent, and the marketing cost of those queries clearly doesn’t rest with the AdWords spend, but instead, TV, radio, billboards, and overall great customer service which drives referrals. In addition, clicks for branded queries are extremely uncompetitive relative to non branded queries and therefore cheaper, typically costing between 1% and 4% of typical PPC bids. One way online marketing agencies fool their clients is by including conversions from branded queries in their reporting – and taking credit for these very low costs clicks that drive business from marketing dollars spent on other marketing channels.

Trick 2: Hiding YOUR Data.

Agencies often literally hide conversion data from their clients by refusing access to either Google Ads or Google Analytics. If you can’t find your conversion data, perhaps it’s time to find a new agency that understands that it’s your data, not theirs.

Trick 3: Over-Counting Phone Calls

There are only 4 real “conversions” for legal marketing: phone calls, form fills, chat and text. One way agencies artificially inflate their “conversion” data is by counting every phone call (instead of first time callers only) to obfuscate the data behind poorly performing campaigns. Ensure your conversion reporting is set to only count first time callers, any moderately sophisticated dynamic call tracking service (like CallRail) has a simple setting to adjust for this.

It’s important to not only monitor the rate at which your advertising is converting into inquiries from potential clients, but also understand how this relates to industry standards. Benchmarking your conversion rate against competitors within your practice areas should allow you to identify strengths and weaknesses as well as shore up any deficiencies in bidding strategy, ad copy or landing pages that might be preventing you from maximizing your overall conversions.

Why We Track the Customer Journey: 3 Good Reasons

Quick question: should you invest more into the consumer who has searched for local auto-body shops, how to make an insurance claim, and then “car accident lawyer,” or the consumer who has just searched “car accident lawyer?” The answer is, of course, the former. We know that they have been in an accident, we know that they are making an insurance claim, and we know that they need a lawyer. What do we know about the second consumer, other than they want to know about car accident lawyers? 

 

1. Invest Where it Matters

Advertising is a game of wise investing and strategic placement. “Car accident lawyer” won’t be a cheap search term, no matter where you are. It’s important not to spend exorbitant amounts for each click by someone who isn’t even in the market for a lawyer.  By narrowing your audience down through search histories, you are saving money on PPC.

 

2. Reliable Customers

Visibility is vital for brand awareness and future conversions, but shouldn’t be the focus of targeted search campaigns. The customer journey is not vital for visibility campaigns, which largely appear on Youtube and Display ads. Search ads can be highly targeted and are a high-investment-high-return type of advertising. You can, and should, target consumers who you know are on the path to hiring a lawyer. Don’t use search ads to try and convert people who aren’t interested.

 

3. Actionable Metrics

Through Google Analytics and/or Google Search Console you can see where your clients are coming from. You can see their customer journey, how they found their way to your website, and at what step in their search they chose to convert. These metrics will show you where to invest in advertising and where to focus on link-building. Knowing how to connect with your clients before they even know they are going to convert is the goal of any good advertising campaign.

Deciding when to intercept a customer is a skill, and one that we excel at. We take pride in our experience running successful search campaigns. If you would like to discuss opportunities for your firm, contact Mockingbird today.